David Kaye is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression and opinion. He has held this position since 2014, which gives him a unique vantage point from which to view trends in how governments and other entities seek to suppress free speech. Now, with the coronavirus pandemic sweeping across the world, he is out with a new warning.
“The COVID-19 virus is not just the cause of illness and death, it is also a pathogen of repression,” he warns in a new report to the United Nations Human Rights Council which surveys the ways in which governments have used the pandemic as a pretext to clamp down on free speech, independent media and even order internet shutdowns. “Seen from this perspective, the pandemic is also a crisis of free expression – naturally caused, to be sure, but facilitated by information policies that weakened the infrastructures of warning and reporting. Individuals and their communities, however, cannot protect themselves against disease when information is denied to them, when they have diminished trust in sources of information, and when propaganda and disinformation dominate the statements of public authorities.”
In this episode of the Global Dispatches podcast, David Kaye explains how the pandemic is influencing trends in free speech around the world, and how some nefarious actors are using disinformation and the threat of disinformation to tighten control on the flow and availability of information to populations around the world.